• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Congress to Evaluate Flawed Chemical Security Program

    Tomorrow, the House Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security will delve into the problems surrounding the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. The program has been beset by difficulties: a lack of transparency, confusing standards, and the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) failure to finalize security plans. Though widely considered a model for regulation, the implementation of CFATS has failed to live up to its reputation and should be reexamined.

    Designed in 2007, CFATS prescribes regulations for facilities that produce or deal with high-risk chemicals. The program was meant to assign risk designations to facilities based on the amount and type of chemicals stored on site and the existing security procedures. Those at highest risk were given a “Tier 1” designation, while those at lower risk levels were given a “Tier 4” designation. By increasing security and lowering risk, facilities could drop to lower tiers or completely out of the program.

    The methods for assessing risk are complex, however, and the basis for the tier ranking decisions is not available to facilities owners. Additionally, vague performance standards have left facilities uncertain about what should be done to improve security. The lack of capable inspectors has only made the situation worse. These and other failures discourage security innovation and have facilities scrambling to figure out what exactly DHS wants.

    Perhaps most glaringly, DHS has failed to approve any finalized security plans until very recently, and has approved only one. Chemical facilities have done their best to comply with confusing standards and navigate the process of lowering their security risks, but even after all that, DHS has not been able to finalize these plans.

    Despite these issues, some have proposed adding even more regulation. Some have called for an Inherently Safer Technology mandate, forcing facilities to switch to supposedly safer chemicals, even if it requires substantial changes to chemical processes, inputs, or products. Others have called for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation of chemical security, as the EPA already oversees environmental regulation of the chemical industry. These approaches go in the wrong direction, as they will add additional costs and only inhibit chemical security.

    Instead of more regulations from DHS or the EPA, Congress should insist on market-oriented security reforms. While high-risk chemical facilities should be subject to some degree of government oversight, DHS needs to leave more room for the private sector to encourage cost-effective and innovative solutions. Additionally, DHS should pursue greater cooperation and transparency so that the private sector can be more effective in securing chemical facilities.

    As Congress considers funding and reauthorizing CFATS, it should take a hard look at the current program and its challenges, and begin the move to a more cost-effective, transparent, and market-based solution.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    Comments are closed.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.